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Legal Briefing: Comment Key to Discrimination Case

Employers must ensure managers are sensitized about the issues of responding to questions about decisions by employees to avoid the appearance of improper motive.

February 11, 2014
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Related Topics: Miscellaneous Legal Issues, Disabilities, Discrimination and EEOC Compliance, The Latest, Legal
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Leanne Kidd, a white woman, worked for Korean-owned Mando America Corp. where she was responsible for accounts payable/general ledger. Following her January 2008 hire and after an assistant accounting manager was terminated, Kidd was assigned his job duties. In the spring of 2009, Mando hired a new assistant accounting manager without advertising it to Kidd and hired a Korean male for that position. Kidd sued the company under Title VII for discriminatory failure to promote on the basis of national origin and sex, and the U.S. District Court for Middle Alabama granted summary judgment to Mando, even though Kidd contended that Mando’s HR manager told her the company “refused to even consider an American candidate.”  

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit remanded the case back to the district court for trial to determine the admissibility of the HR manager’s purported comment.

The 11th Circuit rejected Mando’s argument that the HR manager’s statement should not be considered as evidence of discriminatory motive because the HR manager was not the decision-maker. The court held that “a statement made by a nondecision-maker may be both relevant and attributable to the defendant employer if the nondecision-maker was sufficiently involved in the decision-making process.” Kidd v. Mando Am. Corp. 11th Cir. 2013, No. 12-12090 (Sept. 27, 2013).  

IMPACT: Employers must ensure that managers are sensitized about the issues of responding to questions about decisions by employees to avoid even the appearance of improper motive.
 

James E. Hall, Mark T. Kobata and Marty Denis are partners in the law firm Barlow, Kobata and Denis, which has offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. To comment, email editors@workforce.com. FollowWorkforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

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